Communist Power in Europe, 1944-1949

By Martin McCauley | Go to book overview

12 British Policy towards Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary 1944-1946

ELISABETH BARKER

The outbreak of the Second World War caused the British to involve themselves in the affairs of south-east Europe, in which they had previously taken very little practical interest. From 1941 the Foreign Office assumed that the British would play an important post-war role in the area, but that the Soviet Union would be a powerful rival, claiming predominance in Romania, though not necessarily in Bulgaria, still less in Hungary. However, the Quebec and Teheran Conferences of 1943 ruled out any British wartime military role in south-east Europe, leaving the field open to Russia. Britain's only hope of keeping a post-war foothold there was by political-diplomatic methods such as the Anglo-Soviet percentage agreement over Romania and Greece, later extended to Bulgaria, Hungary and Yugoslavia,1 and the Armistice terms and Allied Control Commissions (A.C.C.) for the three ex-satellites, Romania, Bulgaria Hungary.


THE ITALIAN PRECEDENT

When negotiations with the Soviet Union about Armistice terms for the three south-east European satellites started in 1944, there was already in existence a precedent, which the Russians exploited to the full, in the Italian Armistice and control arrangements. In August 1943 the British and Americans had conducted negotiations with the Badoglio government on their own, simply keeping the Russians 'specially informed'.2 This led to 'far from cordial' complaints from Stalin, who told Churchill and Roosevelt that he could no longer tolerate a situation in which the Soviet Union, as a passive third observer, merely received information about the results of agreements made by the British and Americans. He asked for creation of a 'military-political commission' of the Big Three to consider questions concerning negotiations with governments dissociating themselves from Germany.3

Churchill saw the red light, and told the War Cabinet that this proposal should be accepted since it would establish the principle of reciprocity; if

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